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Secretary-General to meet with African Union chief on peacekeeping in Darfur

Secretary-General to meet with African Union chief on peacekeeping in Darfur

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said he will soon meet with the head of the African Union to discuss the continuing suffering in Sudan’s devastated Darfur region, as the United Nations warned that almost 50,000 more people were forced to flee violence in the region last month alone.

Mr. Ban outlined to reporters the UN’s recent initiatives to try and bring peace to Darfur, including a letter he sent on 24 January to Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al Bashir stressing the importance of more support for the African Union mission, known as AMIS, and also the need for the rapid deployment of the hybrid UN-African Union force.

“Now I have requested very strongly that President Bashir agree to my letter [on the heavy support package which will enable the early deployment] of a hybrid African Union and UN peacekeeping operations there,” the Secretary-General said in Austria, where he is on an official visit.

“There are two tracks that are still going on, even though we have not yet finally agreed. One is the political process; a political dialogue process is going on at the highest level, including myself. And secondly, peacekeeping operation level is now being discussed. The United Nations will soon engage in detailed negotiations with African Union representatives and I’m also going to meet with the African Union Commissioner.”

Mr. Ban’s comments come as the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released its latest grim overview of the situation in Darfur, produced in collaboration with other UN agencies and partner non-governmental organizations (NGOs), showing the violence forced around 46,000 people to flee their homes last month.

“New population displacements were registered weekly in January as attacks on villages, sexual violence and intimidation continued to force large numbers of people to move throughout Darfur. Generalized violence, attacks on humanitarian assets and bureaucratic impediments continued to affect humanitarian operations,” the overview states.

New displacements of villagers towards internally displaced person (IDP) camps continued “relentlessly” through the month as a result of attacks by both the Government of Sudan and associated militia and a wing of the Sudan Liberation Army headed by Minni Minawi, according to OCHA.

This was especially the case in north Darfur where there were reports of Sudanese Government “aerial bombings in many locations - and attacks and intimidation by Arab militias.”

OCHA’s overview said that while there were some positive humanitarian developments in terms of access to areas that had been cut off for months, overall access for emergency supplies “continues to be compromised.” The latest January humanitarian access map shows Darfur-wide access is about 64 per cent.

Backing up this grim assessment, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) said today a 15-year old girl was raped on Tuesday in south Darfur, while Arab tribal fighting has erupted again in the same region. These are the latest in daily reports of violence coming out of the region, where at least 200,000 people have been killed and 2 million others displaced from their homes since 2003. In total, some 4 million civilians need assistance to survive.